A Stabbing in Gilo

The southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo made news several years ago as Palestinian gunmen regularly opened fire on its residents’ homes from the nearby town of Beit Jala near Bethlehem.

Today (Thurs. Oct.23), Gilo is once again in the news after a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli policeman and an elderly passerby, who later died of his injuries.

The BBC’s first report of today’s incident headlined “Two stabbed in Israeli settlement,” later updated to “Israeli dies in settlement attack,” describes Gilo as “a Jewish settlement to the south of Jerusalem” and marks Gilo separately from Jerusalem on an illustrative map. To many people, these headlines have the effect of mitigating the incident by describing it as taking place in a “settlement.”

Reuters follows suit with “Palestinian kills Israeli near Jerusalem: police,” which states that the “incident occurred in the settlement of Gilo, in the occupied West Bank, near Jerusalem.”

AFP, in “Israeli killed in Jerusalem knife attack,” gets it right that Gilo is located within the city limits but then goes on to describe it as “a Jewish settlement in the Arab east section of Jerusalem.”

The majority of Gilo, however, is built on land legally purchased by Jews prior to 1948. In the 1948 war, Jewish lands in Gilo were captured and confiscated by the Jordanian government. From 1948-67, Jewish landowners did not relinquish ownership to their land in Gilo, and when Israel recaptured the land in the Six-Day War, Gilo was built – not because of war victories, but because of longstanding legal land purchases.

Gilo lies within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and is geographically contiguous to surrounding Jewish neighborhoods that pre-dated the 1967 reunification of the city.

Gilo, despite being over the 1967 Green Line, is certainly not a “settlement,” in the most used sense of the word, which can conjure up images of isolated enclaves in the West Bank or hilltop outposts for those without a knowledge of the region. The particular geography of Gilo has been recognized by many media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post,  CNN, Associated Press, Boston Globe and CBS News, which have all, in the past, described Gilo as a “neighborhood.”

With much of the press preoccupied with the world economic crisis and the US election campaign, this incident may not make it into the pages of the newspapers. However, if you do see Gilo referred to as a “settlement”, please write to your media outlet to correct this misleading terminology.

In the meantime please send your considered comments to:


HonestReporting has regularly criticized much of the media for referring to Palestinian terrorists who target innocent civilians through suicide bombings or other acts of violence as “militants.”

As if to prove our point, The Economist features the criminal and violent activities of some young Israeli settler extremists, referring to them as “Jewish settler-militants” and a “militant hardcore group.” According to The Economist, “they may hit Palestinians or soldiers somewhere else. They stone cars, smash windows, burn olive trees and fields. They attack villagers and shepherds, and tangle with the army and police.”

Irrespective of one’s views on settlements and their residents (and criminal and violent acts such as those described above are, of course, unacceptable), is The Economist unable to distinguish between young hooligans and real bona fide terrorists thus creating a false equivalence?

Have we really reached the absurd point where “militant” has become a catch-all to describe any antagonist from political activist all the way to suicide bomber purely due to the media’s reluctance to describe terrorists as terrorists?

We call on the media to practice greater precision in their terminology and to use the word “terrorist” where appropriate.


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